Anxious to Talk About It: Helping White Christians Talk Faithfully About Racism

Carolyn B. Helsel. Chalice, $19.99 trade paper (128p) ISBN 978-0-8272-0072-2
In this useful book, Helsel, a Presbyterian pastor and professor of preaching at Austin Presbyterian Theological Seminary, lends her perspective as an academic, a member of the clergy, and a white woman to the conversation about race in contemporary America. Helsel divulges personal stories as well as stories taken from the lives of people she has met while preaching and during her time working with the Oral History Project. In one chapter, Helsel tells the story of a young biracial girl named Ashley growing up in white society. To analyze Ashley’s experience of learning that white people view her as an outsider, Helsel breaks it into the five phases of racial identity development described by Janet Helms—pre-encounter, encounter, immersion, internalization, and commitment—that track Ashley’s process from the original encounter with racism to a full commitment to her African-American identity. Helsel’s penultimate chapter, “Spiritual Practices for Race Talk,” argues that (for white people) overcoming fears of talking about race requires “caring for yourself through self-compassion, tending to cries for justice through bearing witness, strengthening community through hospitality and dialogue, and incorporating a vision of reconciliation in regular forms of worship and preaching.” In Helsel’s thesis, public, communal healing must begin with spiritual inner peace and a love of brotherhood found through Christ. This slim but powerful book will be of most use to white readers looking for a way to have honest conversations about race. (Feb.)
Reviewed on: 02/12/2018
Release date: 02/01/2018
Genre: Religion
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